BAGHDAD (Reuters) - At least 16 people were killed and 31 wounded by a car bomb targeting Shi'ite pilgrims in Iraq's Hilla city during a major religious ritual, local police sources said on Monday.
The bombing came at the height of Ashura, which commemorates the death of Prophet Mohammad's grandson Imam Hussein and defines Shi'ite Islam and its split with Sunni Islam.
"A car bomb was parked near a Shi'ite pilgrims' procession inside the Nile area, and it killed 16 people, mostly women and children, and wounded 31 others," a police source at Hilla hospital said.
Another police source confirmed the initial death toll.
The attack underscored Iraq's fragile security as the last 10,000 American troops prepare to withdraw by the end of 2011, more than eight years after the invasion that ousted Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein.
Sunni Islamist insurgents often target Shi'ite shrines and ceremonies in an attempt to inflame sectarian tensions still simmering close to the surface in Iraq.
Violence has eased sharply since its worst years in 2006-2007 when Sunni and Shi'ite armed groups killed thousands in intercommunal assassinations and bombings. But Sunni insurgents and Shi'ite militias still carry out deadly attacks.
(Reporting by Baghdad newsroom,; writing by Patrick Markey; editing by Tim Pearce)